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The Biography of Walter O'Malley

Big League Dreams
On May 28, 1957, the National League, meeting in Chicago, granted the Giants and the Dodgers the permission to move to San Francisco and Los Angeles if the two clubs sought to make that shift together by October 1 of the same year. In 1957, as in previous years, many meetings took place and considerable correspondence was exchanged in New York, but no solutions to the problem of acquiring the land O’Malley preferred in Brooklyn resulted.
O’Malley also spent a great amount of time in August 1957 working on details of a possible agreement to bring the Dodgers to Los Angeles. The negotiator tabbed in early July 1957 by the city and the County Supervisors of Los Angeles was Harold “Chad” McClellan, the former Under-Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs in the Eisenhower Administration, who took over where earlier discussions in March in Vero Beach and May in Los Angeles had commenced. The first meeting between McClellan and O’Malley was in Brooklyn on August 21, 1957, just two days after the Giants announced they were moving to San Francisco.
Last-ditch efforts by New York officials to keep the Dodgers proved futile, including Mayor Wagner’s attempt to embrace Nelson Rockefeller’s plan to finance the land on which to build a new ballpark. Moses, who thwarted any thoughts of the Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues site in Brooklyn, had stonewalled the efforts of O’Malley. Like so many before and after him, O’Malley knew it was time to head west to new frontiers.
On October 7, 1957, the Los Angeles City Council voted 10-4 to pass a motion to officially ask the Dodgers to relocate to their city and entered into a contract with them to exchange land at Chavez Ravine for Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. The contract obligated O’Malley to privately fund and build a 50,000-seat stadium, in addition to putting the land back on the tax rolls. The next day, the Dodgers’ publicist Red Patterson issued the following announcement from New York: “In view of the action of the Los Angeles City Council yesterday and in accordance with the resolution of the National League made October first, the stockholders and directors of the Brooklyn Baseball Club have today met and unanimously agreed that the necessary steps be taken to draft the Los Angeles territory.”
However, problems arose from the start, and as O’Malley stepped off the Dodger airplane in Los Angeles on October 23, 1957, he was greeted not only by a welcoming committee and well-wishers, but with a summons served on behalf of a few residents living illegally in Chavez Ravine.
The area, named for former Los Angeles Councilman Julian Chavez, was the site of the federal government’s failed public housing project in the early 1950s and the land had reverted back to the City of Los Angeles with limited-use restrictions. No one was supposed to be living on the land, as the Housing Authority of Los Angeles had sent letters to the residents as early as July 24, 1950 informing them that “a public housing development will be built on this location for families of low income…It will be several months at least before your property is purchased. After the property is bought, the Housing Authority will give you all possible assistance in finding another home.” But, a handful of residents remained there illegally, despite being told repeatedly by city officials to relocate. As he did in New York, O’Malley took it in stride and stayed focused.

Pouring over possible new stadium plans on Aug. 19, 1955 are New York Mayor Robert Wagner, Walter O’Malley, New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore. The meeting was held on the porch of the Mayor’s Gracie Mansion in New York.

As they arrive in Los Angeles on their own airplane on Oct. 23, 1957, Dodger President Walter O’Malley steps off the plane to a welcoming committee headed by key supporters County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and L.A. City Councilwoman Fifth District Rosalind Wyman.

An aerial look at the hilly terrain which would later be used to form Dodger Stadium.

A July 24, 1950 letter from the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles details for residents the new “public housing development” which will be built on the site, as well as the appraisal process.

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